Eastside 101: Odd Fellows Cemetery

August 17, 2007 at 12:45 pm in East Side

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One of the most prominent characteristics of the Eastside has to be the abundance of cemeteries, you can’t keel over without plopping down on another muertito! That might be a slight exaggeration, but that’s kinda how it feels when you get to know this part of town, you always seem to run into a graveyard. I was hoping to do one massive post, cover some of the different cemeteries with a few pics of each along with a bit of info, but I ruled that out since there were a bunch of snapshots I took on my first trip to Odd Fellows that I wanted to share. This resting ground also holds a special place in my heart but not because I know any of the corpses there, more on that in a bit.

You all like pictures, right? Well I hope you do, otherwise feel free to not click ahead.

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Lodged between the Santa Ana Fwy and Whittier Blvd, the Odd Fellows is the smaller and lesser known of the two cemeteries in Boyle Heights, the rest of them are in East LA proper. I couldn’t find much info online, other than a mention that it might have been part of the old Los Angeles City Cemetery and that it moved to its new and present location, bringing the buried with them, back in 1890. And it turns out the meaning to the cool name isn’t even clear to the founding organization. Stop wagging your finger; I plan to get a library card, will attempt to comprehend books without pictures, and maybe find out some more info for my next cemetery post. But don’t hold me to it, I ain’t no damn reporter!

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Since most of the Eastside cemeteries are quite old, they still have that charming touch of personalized headstones. Not like the boring cheaper-to-mow-the-grass “lawns” of the newer corpo-corpso grounds that might truly deserve the slur of McDeath.

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Next to a large, decorative and informational headstone..

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..you might find some simple ones that don’t even mention a name.

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Some were laid to rest awhile ago, like this one back in 1885.

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But many are much more recent, like this young guy, laid to rest just four years ago.

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There’s a mausoleum. Behind the trees, on the corner of Whittier and Esperanza, Tommy’s tried to expand into the Eastside. It didn’t work out.

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Now for some random shots of the scenery.

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Looking towards Whittier.

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Keeping extra cool under a tree.

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Armenian surnames also present.

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German too.

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I’d never seen this before: small headstones in the space separating the rows.

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And even some large ones in that same small strip.

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This one is kinda sad: buried in 1918, he left some space on the marker for a partner. And if my calculations are correct, they should have joined him by now! I hope someone was just too poor to pay for the engraving.

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Backwards baseball cap.

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Today, Tomorrow, Forever. So reads the small balloon.

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Hmm, where have I heard that name before?

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This one also rings a bell.

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A DIY headstone. You’ve gotta love that!

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Offerings of Bud Light, Doritos, and something that must have been on the over turned plate.

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A lamb.

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Heart shapes.

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There are a few of these that read “Here rests a woodman of the world”.

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And there are also some that have badges and other symbols of law enforcement. Speaking of which, now might be a good time to explain why I’ve always liked this particular cemetery.

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Have any of you ever spent a warm summer night, back in those idyllic days of your youth, just hanging out at a local park with a few friends, relaxing, talking all kinds of bullshit, ONLY TO HAVE THE COPS SWOOP IN ON YOU, blaring shit out the loudspeaker about curfews and closing times, chasing you out, everyone running this way or that trying to find an exit, trying not to get caught, cops taunting “run-cockroaches-run”, bright lights messing with your eyes that just adjusted to the darkness of night? Does that sound familiar to anyone?

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Well, it wasn’t just a story to me, and no doubt some kids today are having a similar experience. I don’t remember who it was amongst my friends that figured out a way to sneak into this cemetery but it sure did make hanging out on a Friday night much less stressful! There was an open lot on a side street that lead to an access point in the cemetery fence..

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..and once you were in you could just head towards the center, where the sounds you planned on making would hopefully not carry to the neighbors ears, allowing for a night of hanging out without fear. Hmm, I can hear some rustling amongst the readers, scorning the thought of such extra-legal activities. All I can say is that in a city that makes no plans for accessible public space, the impromptu creation of the equivalent is inevitable and necessary.

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Sometimes the attempts at hiding out in the cemetery would go awfully wrong: it’s a bitch trying to hide from the bright light of a police helicopter, hovering around looking for some pesky kids! That’s not a pic of a copter, just an interesting looking headstone shaped as a large rock.

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“And ever near us, tho’ unseen,
Their dear immortal Spirits tread;
For all this boundless Universe
Is Life – there are no dead.”

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And finally, easily my favorite headstone, this remarkable piece of ironwork in the form of a decorative cross.

So that concludes this tour of the Odd Fellows Cemetery, a part of the Eastside landscape. I hope my attempts at pointing out places and aspects of life on the Eastside might budge some of those that would ignore our history to take a moment to reflect, think, and ultimately stop taking gigantic shits on top of our sense of place.

Oh, wait, let me take one more picture to show you, it’s kinda interesting..

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.. I guess others are still sneaking in here as well! This guy calls himself “problema”, someone is gonna have a problem with that mess you made of the wall.

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No mention if spray painting is allowed. Crazy kids.

Okay, back to the car, cya later.

“Hey! Oye tu!” (Whistle) (Another loud whistle) “Ey! Ey!”

Oh-oh, looks like that graffiti was a warning to me! I take it as a given that if anyone is trying to get my attention from very far away, it’s not going to be to tell me some good news. Nobody ever stops me with news that I just won a toaster, or that I’ve been selected to participate in an all paid vacation-survey to Cancun; getting stopped means “can I see your receipt”, “we’ve had a report”, “do you have a pass”, or something of the sort. I’m not about to stop voluntarily for cemetery workers suddenly making a dash towards me because they just realized I was taking a picture of the graffiti. Of course, they catch up to me.

In Spanish-

“Did you take a picture of that wall?”

Yeah, I’m just taking a few pictures around the cemetery.

“Do you have permission?”

(One thing I’ve learned: until I know otherwise, I always have permission. Works for me.)

“Yes, Roberto said it was fine.”

Puzzled, the guy mutters something about not knowing a Roberto and proceeds to get on the phone to call the higher ups. Now I really need to get going! Almost made it out when some crazy, old chola looking lady in business attire starts yelling at me to stop the car, making a big production of getting the license plate. I pulled over just to tell her yelling and making a scene wasn’t necessary, but that just helped to turn up the volume. I caught something about private property, and “don’t I know that blah, blah”.

The reaction was quite extreme, almost as if they had something to hide. The workers didn’t seem to care when I was taking pics of the headstones, now all of a sudden this graffiti pic triggers a bunch of loony reactions. I don’t know what to make of it, but if any of you plan to visit here, watch out for the crazy old chola!

Odd Fellow Cemetery
3640 Whittier Blvd.
Google map of all the Eastside 101 locations here

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